Category Archives: Children’s books

The Time Garden

What Ann was thinking was that maybe this summer would turn out to be a wonderful magic one like the summer before. It had a lot of magic-seeming things in it already — parents being called away and four children sent to stay in an old house by the sea. Lots of magic adventures in books started out that way.

Many years ago, I read a fun fantasy novel for middle grade students. It was called Half Magic, by Edward Eager, and was the first in a series of books that are full of fun and magic and are a delight to read. I kept Half Magic in my class library for my sixth grade students to enjoy. Just recently, I read the 4th book in the series, and it was just as delightful. It was called The Time Garden, and had very interesting magic in it, too.

from the publisher:

But you can’t find magic just anywhere. It doesn’t grow like grass. It requires the right place and the right time . . . Or thyme, as the case may be. At Mrs. Whiton’s house, magic grows as wild as the banks of thyme in the garden. Growing there is olden time, future time, and common time. Or so says the Natterjack, the toadlike creature who accompanies the children on a series of hilarious, always unpredictable adventures. “Anything can happen,” the Natterjack says, “when you have all the time in the world.”

Four children, sent to stay with “old Mrs. Whiton” for the summer, had four amazing adventures in time. By picking a different type of Thyme from a magical Thyme garden, the children were able to travel through time to four different locations and time periods. One adventure was to visit young Louisa May Alcott because they loved the books she would eventually write! As with all the books in this series by Edward Eager, the magic is complicated and makes for an even more interesting adventure. 

It’s a sweet novel, a wonderful summer read for young or old.

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. The author of this book was from Ohio.

Books to Start Important Conversations With Children

I have always loved reading children’s books, and so I am now exploring the wealth of books on  diversity that are available to teach the Black and Brown experience to children. These books were checked out of my library’s e-book collection, and I’m very happy to say that they are being read by a lot of people right now! That fills me with hope! I enjoyed reading them and will post a mini-review of each one. They are all really good, and some are real treasures, like Nikki Giovanni’s poems.

I Am Loved, by Nikki Giovanni.

A beautiful little book of poems. The illustrations and the poems were beautiful and moving.

from the publisher:

There is nothing more important to a child than to feel loved, and this gorgeous gathering of poems written by Nikki Giovanni celebrates exactly that. Hand-selected by Newbery honoree Ashley Bryan, he has, with his masterful flourish of color, shape, and movement, added a visual layering that drums the most impartant message of all to young, old, parent, child, grandparent, and friend alike: You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. As a bonus, one page is mirrored, so children reading the book can see exactly who is loved—themselves!

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

This was an historical happening that I had never heard about, but it is an important story to read with children when talking about segregation.

from the publisher:

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

A Kids Book About Racism, by Jelani Memory

This little picture book, written by a Portland, Oregon, author, is a great way to start conversations with children about racism. It is powerful in it’s simple, straightforward language and information.

from the publisher:

Yes, this really is a kids book about racism. Inside, you’ll find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.

This is one conversation that’s never too early to start, and this book was written to be an introduction for kids on the topic.

Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss

This is a powerful book about the difficulty of traveling for families of color back in the 1950s. A good way to start the conversation about Jim Crow laws and how things have, or have not, changed since that time.

from the publisher:

Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws . . .

Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook―and the kindness of strangers―Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama.

Almost to Freedom, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Colin Bootman

This was a very moving story about the Underground Railroad.

from the publisher:

Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.

If you haven’t read any of these little books, I highly recommend them for parents and grandparents to read with their loved ones, and for teachers to start important discussions with their students (of all ages). The conversations they inspire would be heartfelt.

Deep in the Sahara

Deep in the Sahara, by Kelly Cunnane and illustrated by Hoda Hadadi, is the story of a young Mauritanian girl named Lalla. She desperately wants to wear a malafa like her mother, her older sister, and her grandmother. But a malafa is not to be worn until a young girl understands why they are worn.

from the publisher:

Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman’s beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith—that Lalla’s mother agrees to slip a long cloth as blue as the ink in the Koran over Lalla’s head, under her arm, and round and round her body. Then together, they pray.

This was such a sweet and interesting story with beautiful illustrations. I didn’t know much about Mauritania, except that it is a West African nation. And I didn’t know much about the practice of Islam there, or the customs of dress, so this was an interesting learning for me. It would be a wonderful addition to a class library or a family’s collection of books on diversity and world cultures. Here is a photo of the author’s notes on writing this story, which I thought were as interesting as the book itself! (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a story from Mauritania.

My Anti-Racist Education

I am a Learner. That’s why I became a teacher (and also because I loved spending my days in the hopeful and inspiring world of young people). So in trying to deal with the horrific events of the last few weeks, I realized that I have so much to learn. So I am beginning an important undertaking:  I am now focusing on educating myself on how to become Anti-Racist.

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Angela Y. Davis

“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.”
Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

And one of the most hopeful things I’ve discovered in making this commitment to become anti-racist is that so many other people are doing the same thing! I took the photo above just this morning when I got on the library website to look for some e-books to add to my growing list of books to read on this subject. Every. single. book. has a waiting list of weeks and weeks! My heart soared with HOPE to see that there are so many other Learners out there!

On this page, I will keep a list with links to my reviews of books and other resources that I’ve found and appreciated, so please come back here occasionally to see this self-education journey.

BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED:

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historical Presidency, by Pete Souza
  3. They Call Us Enemy, by George Takei
  4. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  5. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. Dear Ijeawele: or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  8. Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, by John Lewis
  9. Kindred, by Octavia Butler

READ BUT NOT REVIEWED (yet):

  • Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  • Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison

CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT THE BLACK EXPERIENCE AND DIVERSITY:

PODCASTS:

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Ada’s Violin

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, is a true story told in picture book form. It’s a very heartwarming story about the power of music and creativity to bring hope to the slums of Paraguay.

from the publisher:

Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.

It’s so nice to find a story of inspiration and hope. Ada’s dreams of playing the violin were fulfilled beyond her imagination, thanks to the work of Favio Chávez. Here are some links to more information on both Mr. Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra.

Click here to see a live performance on YouTube of the Recycled Orchestra.

Click here to see an NPR report on the Recycled Orchestra.


I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book based on a true story from Paraguay.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren, has long been on my list of books to read because I didn’t read it as a child, although that little girl with red hair and strange braids was always in the periphery somewhere. But I thought since she is just a little bit older than me, she is 75 years old this year, (to my 71 years), that I should celebrate by finally reading the book.

It is a beloved book worldwide, but I didn’t fall in love with it. I mostly enjoyed it, and could certainly see why it would appeal to many people young and old…and I admired the strength of this nine-year old girl and her goodhearted but quirky nature. But I felt like I was missing some of the cultural context of the book…things that might be more humorous and/or meaningful in the original language and culture. (Or maybe it was just that my sense of humor has been quarantined a little too long this spring?)  She was not a boring character, and she had spunk! I think she actually might just be the quintessential spunky character.

from the publisher:

Pippi is an irrepressible, irreverent, and irrefutably delightful girl who lives alone (with a monkey) in her wacky house, Villa Villekulla. When she’s not dancing with the burglars who were just trying to rob her house, she’s attempting to learn the “pluttification” tables at school; fighting Adolf, the strongest man in the world at the circus; or playing tag with police officers. Pippi’s high-spirited, good-natured hijinks cause as much trouble as fun, but a more generous child you won’t find anywhere.

Astrid Lindgren has created a unique and lovable character, inspiring generations of children to want to be Pippi. More than anything, Pippi makes reading a pleasure; no child will welcome the end of the book, and many will return to Pippi Longstocking again and again. Simply put, Pippi is irresistible.

So the book experience for me was okay, but I was much more interested in the author, Astrid Lindgren, who appealed more to me than the character she created. She was a humanist and committed advocate for children and animal rights, and through her writings and advocacy work, she was able to help bring changes into law that prohibited violence against children (she was very much against corporal punishment) and promoted animal rights. You can read more about her work here on her website.

I’m sorry to all of you who grew up absolutely loving Pippi. Perhaps I should reread it at some point down the road to see if it was just my state of mind right now, or if the book just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

The Twenty-One Balloons

I recently re-read a beloved book from my childhood. The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene Du Bois, was another book read by my big brother, Curt, and since I often followed in his reading footsteps, I then read it, too. This book won the Newbery Award in 1948, and is a fanciful, fun book.

from the publisher:

Professor William Waterman Sherman intends to fly across the Pacific Ocean. But through a twist of fate, he lands on the secret island of Krakatoa where he discovers a world of unimaginable wealth, eccentric inhabitants, and incredible balloon inventions.

from the book:

“The best way of travel, however, if you aren’t in any hurry at all, if you don’t care where you are going, if you don’t like to use your legs, if you don’t want to be annoyed at all by any choice of directions, is in a balloon. In a balloon, you can decide only when to start, and usually when to stop. The rest is left entirely to nature.”

I wonder how kids these days would like this little book? I remember when I read it long ago, that I enjoyed the inventions and the humor, the adventure and the calamities. This time reading it, I chuckled all the way through it. A delightful entertainment!

 

I read this book for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. Although fiction, it takes place on the island of Krakatoa in Indonesia.

Ballet Shoes

photos above are from the ballet book I adored as a child…

It’s never too late to catch up with books you missed reading as a child!  Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild, is the first book in another series I missed reading when I was growing up. I don’t know how that happened, as I loved ballet and would have loved this book! But I’m glad I filled in that gap by reading it while I was sick in bed this month. It was fun and interesting, and a great way to take one’s mind off a cough and a cold.

from the publisher:

Pauline, Petrova, and Posy love their quiet life together. They are orphans who have been raised as sisters, and when their new family needs money, the girls want to help. They decide to join the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training to earn their keep. Each girl works hard following her dream. Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. And Petrova? She finds she’d rather be a pilot than perform a pirouette.